by Suz email@example.com
Disclaimer - Paramount owns 'em.
This is set in a future where Tom Paris wasn't demoted and Kathryn Janeway is how she used to be.
Kathryn Janeway sat next to the man at the bar and ordered a scotch from the holographic bartender. As the drink was placed in front of her she turned to the only other occupant who was nursing his own alcoholic concoction. Real Romulan Ale, if the smell was anything to go by. Where the hell did he get that in the middle of the Delta Quadrant? She shouldn't have been surprised. If there was something Tom Paris knew how to do, it was how to get his hands on absolutely anything he wanted.
Except a little peace, apparently.
"You know you've been in here for four hours."
Finally seeming to notice that someone was in the room with him, Tom blinked at her words but still kept his gaze on the glass he held between his hands. "Really? Seems longer."
"You've run over two other crewmembers holodeck time. It's been taken care of, but you owe Neelix a hand in the mess hall next week. Seems he's making a back-log of leola root stew."
He either ignored or didn't notice her poor attempt to lighten his mood. "Sure."
Deciding on a new tactic, she chose to be blunt. "You really should go and see her Tom."
She was trying to be patient. He could be unbelievably stubborn when he wanted to be. "So what are you going to do? Sit here staring at your glass for another eight hours hoping that some kind of revelation will occur? That suddenly there will be an explanation for what happened?"
"There's already an explanation," he snapped, finally moving his head to glare at her, not caring that he was being so abrupt with the Captain. "I screwed up. When Harry gets through with the flight log it'll show what I already know it shows: pilot error. *Pilot* error. *Me*. I was *piloting* and in the process of screwing up I nearly killed the woman-" He stopped, suddenly, and turned away again. "I miscalculated." He continued, softly. "I pressed the wrong damn button."
Grabbing his arm, she forced him to look at her. "Okay, so you made a mistake-"
"No Captain," he interrupted. "I made another mistake. I guess I'm just lucky that this one didn't land me in prison." He continued before she could tell him how self-absorbed he was being. "I had built up my confidence, you know? Despite all my talk of wanting to be the pilot of Voyager when we first met...when I actually had to...I was terrified." His eyes were dark, his words hollow. "I love flying, always will. But when I sat at the conn...all I kept thinking was 'what if it happens again?'."
"But you weren't taking any deliberately reckless chances then." Kathryn insisted.
"No I wasn't," Tom agreed. "And I got over it, or at least pretended to. After a while I was able to forget it, as if it had never happened. I was even able to convince myself that it wouldn't happen again because I would never take any chances with Voyager." A ruthless, deprecating smile appeared on his lips and she let him look away. "But I wasn't taking any reckless chances this morning. I would never even *try* while B'Elanna was with me. My own life may be something I like to gamble with occasionally, but hers isn't. Hers is-"
"Priceless? Irreplaceable?" Kathryn volunteered.
He paused, taking a sip of his drink. "I was going to say that it's her own life to gamble with."
"Right Paris," she nearly snorted "tell it to someone who buys it."
She was sure that a genuine smile almost appeared on his face.
Tom spoke. "I was being careful. I mean, I knew I was a good pilot, that in my four years on Voyager I have never been personally responsible for a crash. That's good for the soul. But I was being careful because she was with me. And I..."
"Screwed up." Janeway finished for him, ignoring his glare. "A mistake Tom, you made a mistake. You think I never have? You think B'Elanna never has? She doesn't blame you. What do you want me to say?"
"What do *you* want to say, Captain? Why did you come here?"
Removing her hand from his arm, she faced her drink. "I guess...just trying to save a relationship before it falls apart."
"Why bother?" he asked sarcastically. "You can't even stop yours from-" He shut up before he finished what he was saying, but it was too late. They both stiffened but his anger drained out of him in seconds. "I...uh...I guess I'm sorry-"
Trying to brush it off, Kathryn forced a tight smile. "Never mind Tom."
Studying her for a few moments, he moved his glass quickly between his fingers. "Ask you a question?"
"When you crashed...when Chakotay was piloting with you and you...died."
She nodded a little slowly. "Yes?"
"How do you think he felt? That he barely got injured and you *died* while he was piloting. It's almost overwhelming, Captain. The feeling of being responsible but not being able to do anything about it. That if only you'd done something different that could have stopped it from happening."
"But B'Elanna didn't die-"
"How did he act, afterwards? Was he any different?"
Trying to remember just why she had come to see him in the first place, she frowned. But she pondered over his question anyway, and the frown slowly melted into a small smile. "Actually, he gave me a rose."
Tom smirked. "I remember that. It caused quite a stir when he appeared on the bridge with a flower."
Shaking her head, Kathryn covered her face with her hands. "I still have to get even with him for that." Smiling, she lowered her hands. "But I guess that after that...he was a little distant for a while. I mean he'd still be his usual self during his shift, but I'd barely see him other than at work."
Tom nodded sagely. "Guilt. It gets the best of us Captain."
Sipping from her glass, Kathryn thought back over their talk. "Is it me or has this conversation taken a huge U-turn?"
"You are right though, Tom," she told him. "Guilt gets the best of us, and although you may think you need more time, I know a woman who needs you now."
Shaking his head again, his smile vanished. "No. I have no desire to look at her lying on a biobed knowing that I put her there."
"She's not in sickbay."
His attitude deflated. "She isn't?"
A little smugly, Kathryn rose an eyebrow. "If you'd bothered to take your com badge with you, you'd know that she's been trying to contact you for the last two hours. I believe she's waiting in your quarters."
He didn't want to smile. Didn't want to let himself be happy. "Why didn't she come and find me?"
Kathryn chuckled. "Because for all your stubbornness, Tom Paris, you will never be half as stubborn as she is."
A smile cracked onto his face. "She is quite the spitfire, isn't she?"
Kathryn agreed. "But I wouldn't let her hear you call her that anytime soon. Go and see her. That's an order. And if needed...someone else can pilot the ship for a while. We'll tell them you owe the Doctor some time in sickbay."
Pushing his glass away, he stood a little unsteadily. "Thanks Captain and I'll...think about it."
Moving slowly away from her, he passed through the exit of Sandrines, the doors swinging behind him.
Watching until he left, Kathryn then turned back to the bar. Picking up his glass she poured what was left of the contents into her own.
"That can't possibly be good for you."
Shaking her head in amusement, Kathryn lowered her glass, smiling. "How long have you been there?"
"Not long." Chakotay answered, entering the bar from the opposite direction Tom had just left from.
"Liar." she retorted.
Taking Paris' former seat, he ordered a whisky from the silent bartender. "He's right you know."
"About what?" she asked, contemplating downing the whole thing in one shot.
"It's almost overwhelming."
Her head jerked to look at him. He drank from his glass. When he moved his arm down she touched his hand.
Chakotay spoke. "So I heard a good one today."
With her free hand she pushed the glass away. "Well, do tell me Chakotay. I hope it's appropriately pathetic."
"Have I ever let you down?"
Nodding, he began. "So a man walks into a bar..."
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Suz's Voyager Fanfic